This week, I caught up with Jim Keyes, Wick Communication’s manager of digital media sales. Jim is a dynamic thinker and has caused many of us to reconsider the ways we use our digital products to better serve clients and better inform our public.
Lately, Jim’s been talking up the importance of keywords. He notes, rightly, that we could all do more to attract more readers online. We could do more to promote our stories with links (Jim is wildly complementary of the Nogales International, which has incorporated Facebook into the daily grind by making several posts a day). We could add photo galleries. We could promote engagement by printing appropriate online commentary in the printed opinion pages. And we could add related content to stories so that readers might feel compelled to read more about a compelling story.
All of these techniques are designed to increase the “stickiness” of our sites. That is to say, we are interested in having our readers stick around for a while. We want them to be attracted by that one story and stay to read two or three more. (Just to toot the Half Moon Bay Review horn for a minute, July 2013 stats reveal that our visitors spend an average of 1,582 seconds – more than 26 minutes – on our site. That is nearly six times longer than the company average.)
So how do we do that? …
- Engagement: The Review has a robust online forum on our website. I’m not talking about comments on stories. Ours is a third-party program that allows readers to start their own topics and others to comment on those topics. It’s been up and running for about eight years and at this writing there have been 8,792 separate threads started. There are people in our community who can’t get enough of what we have branded Talkabout.
- Related content: Many of us find opportunities to tie related content to our newer stories via the BLOX system. This is very important for ongoing stories. From a public service standpoint, you want to lead readers to all the background they need. Inside Tucson Business is among the Wick newspapers that regularly include related content. (If you don’t know how to do it, feel free to message me separately and I’ll lead you through it.)
- Keywords: Most of our readers come to us through Google or social media links and not by typing in our URL in the family browser. That means they are likely to type “Green Valley” into the search engine and that brings them to us. You may want to help them get to you by including keywords through BLOX. It can be done fairly automatically with the “suggested metadata” function or you can add them manually. Using keywords appears to be two parts art and one part science. I suggest you play around with it, particularly on stories that could have a more national audience. (Again, if you don’t know how, you should. Ask me.)
- Links: This one is obvious. Push links to your stories on social media. That means Facebook, of course, but also Twitter, Vine, Instagram and whatever else the kids in your area are using.
- Be interesting: Nothing will make a boring site sticky. You know from your own experience that websites and homepages that never change are boring. We wouldn’t keep going back to Gawker or HuffingtonPost or Drudge Report or whatever we frequent if those pages didn’t change hourly. News must be new.
Good luck with all this. Attracting and keeping readers online is not an exact science. Don’t sell out. Focus on your core audience. Try new things. Ask for help.